“(Sittin’ On) The Dock of the Bay” – Otis Redding (1967)
From Otis Redding’s first breath, “Sitting on the Dock of the Bay” makes me choke up. And honestly, I have known this song for a very long time because when me and my dad drive, we listen to 101.1 CBS FM and Q104.3 (“oldies” stations”) and my dad always made me stop changing stations when this song came on, and he sang and whistled along. This song was recorded 6 weeks before Redding’s death (plane crash), which makes it even more sombre than anybody ever probably intended. It is in fact more of a nostalgic song about moving from Georgia to San Francisco–which he did in an attempt to become famous. After his death, the song skyrocketed to number 1 on the Billboard Hot 100 and R&B charts.
The song is less than 3 minutes long, but eloquently tells a story that seems carefree and in which he is “wasting time” could apply to Redding as an up and coming musician, or as 25-26 year old man who has reached some point of stardom. His voice is unmatched and no one will ever occupy the same space as Otis again. And this song is a precious gem. Thankfully, it is still being celebrated today–a contestant on NBC’s The Voice covered it as his knockout round song. Of course it is difficult to match Otis’ brilliance, but the song is so good it is very hard to mess up. It is about being in the moment while thinking about home, the past, the future, and life. That is something everyone can learn from–especially college students. Everything in temporary and we should relish the simple things and the fact that we get to do pretty incredible things ion a daily basis (Yes, even taking the more-than-century-old subway system is incredible. Even with that huge guy shoves you out of the way or the MTA manages to make you late for everything. Sorry for this incredibly long and unnecessary tangent, but the point is: think about how amazing it all is). And a lot of the world is out of our control: “Looks like nothing’s gonna change/Everything still remains the same/I can’t do what ten people tell me to do/So I guess I’ll remain the same,” sings Otis. There are factors we simply cannot control when it comes to other people and situations in our lives. We can only control how we react. This is a seamless message in this song. Everybody, please listen to this. It is precious.